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spousal benefit

Restricted Application in 2018

The restricted application is still available in 2018 for folks born before 1954. If you fit into that group, you need to know the options available to you.

Restricted Application – the Definitive Guide

Much has been written and discussed regarding the option to file a Restricted Application for Social Security spousal benefits, but there are still many, many questions. This article is an attempt at covering all of the bases for you with regard to restricted application. The topic of restricted application is so popular these days because it’s being eliminated as a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA15). In fact, if you were born on or after January 2, 1954, the changes to the rules have eliminated the option to file a restricted application for you altogether. So – unless you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you might as well stop reading, because restricted application is not available to you. Period. Restricted Application Rules Okay, if you’re continuing to read, you (or your client, if you’re an advisor) must have been born early enough to be […]

New Deemed Filing Rules

When the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was passed, there were a few changes made to Social Security rules. One of the rules that changed significantly is the deemed filing rule. The old deemed filing rule The current or old deemed filing rule works as follows: When an individual who is under Full Retirement Age (FRA) is eligible for a spousal benefit in addition to a benefit based upon his or her own record files for either benefit, he or she is deemed to have filed for all benefits that he or she is eligible for at that time. At any other time (other than the time of application for benefits) deemed filing does not apply. For example, Anna and John are both nearing 62 years of age. Anna has a PIA (FRA benefit) of $800, and John has a PIA of $2,000. Anna is planning to file for her […]

The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015’s Aftermath Note: the original text had a placeholder date of May 3, 2016 as the final date for File & Suspend. This date has been finalized as April 30, 2016 and the text below corrected. — jb With the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, an era of flexibility in Social Security claiming strategies comes to an end. Long gone is the ability for one spouse to delay benefits while the other collects benefits based on the first spouse’s record. Also gone is the option of collecting spousal benefits while delaying your own benefits to accrue the delay credits. We’ll go over the actual changes below, based upon your date of birth – because some of the provisions will remain for a while, and could be useful if you’re the right age. Born in 1953 or earlier If you were born in […]

Get some now, get more later

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Bill of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. When you have reached Full Retirement Age (FRA – age 66 if you were born between 1946 and 1954), you have the option to file for Spousal Benefits separately from your own benefit. This is known as a restricted application – and is often referred to as “get some now, get more later ”. Of course, you must either be married to another Social Security recipient who has filed for benefits, or you have divorced after 10 years of marriage to someone who is at least 62 years […]

Exception to the Divorced Spouse Remarriage Rule

Generally speaking, when a divorcee is receiving a Social Security spousal benefit based on an ex-spouse’s record, the recipient must remain unmarried in order to continue receiving the ex-spouse benefit. (For more details on this, see Coordinating Social Security Benefits in Matters of Divorce and Remarriage.) In many cases,when a divorcee remarries, the spousal benefit based on his or her ex-spouse’s record will end. However, there is an exception to this rule that I recently became aware of. It’s in part because the circumstances surrounding this exception have recently become more common – so let’s get to the exception. The Exception If the person who is receiving a spousal benefit based on an ex-spouse’s record marries someone who is currently receiving widow(er)’s, mother’s, father’s, divorced spouse’s, or parents’ benefits, the spousal benefit will continue. That’s a mouthful! Let’s play out an example: Jane is divorced from Gerald. Jane has been receiving […]

How Does WEP Affect My Dependents?

We’ve reviewed how WEP impacts your own benefits in prior articles. Briefly, when you’re receiving a pension based on work that was not covered by Social Security, your own Primary Insurance Amount will be reduced by as much as $413 per month (2015 figures) or 50% of the pension, whichever is less. But can this reduction to benefits affect my dependents’ benefits as well? Since the nature of the WEP calculation is to reduce your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), that means any benefit that is based on your PIA will also be reduced. So, if your spouse is planning to receive spousal benefits based on your earnings record and your PIA is reduced due to WEP, the spousal benefit available to your spouse will also be reduced. For example, Jennifer, age 66 was a teacher for 25 years, and her employment was not covered by Social Security taxes. In addition […]

Understand Deemed Filing to Avoid a Surprise in Your SS Strategy

There’s nothing worse than feeling as if you have your Social Security filing strategy all lined out, when a rule like deemed filing rears its ugly head to throw your strategy off track. Here’s an example: Steve and his wife Edie are ages 66 and 61 respectively. The plan is for Steve to file for his Social Security benefit now (at his Full Retirement Age), and for Edie to file for her own benefit when she reaches age 62. Then Edie will wait until she reaches Full Retirement Age of 66 to file for the Spousal Benefit based on Steve’s record, which will increase her benefit by $500 at that time.

7 Questions About Divorcee Social Security Benefits

Included in the myriad of questions that I regularly receive from readers are questions about how a divorced person can collect benefits based upon his or her ex-spouse’s Social Security record. For a divorcee (as with many married couples) sometimes the ex’s benefits represent the lion’s share of the couple’s SS record. Because of this, many divorcees are very interested in knowing what benefits are available to them, and when. In addition, even when the divorced spouse in question is not the higher earner there are questions about benefits that can be quite difficult to find answers for.

10 questions: Social Security Spousal Benefits

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Bill of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a live interactive event with Yahoo! Finance, where folks were able to ask virtually any question they wished. We received and responded to over 200 questions – they’re all on Facebook on the Yahoo! Finance page (click the link to go to the page). One recurring theme played out over and over: Social Security Spousal Benefits are not understood by a vast number of folks. Naturally I find this to be disturbing.  Social Security Spousal Benefits often represent a […]

The Inequity of Spousal Social Security Benefits

We’ve covered a lot of ground talking about Spousal Benefits and strategies for filing, and other facts to know about Spousal Benefits.  But did you realize that there is a flaw in the process that shortchanges some couples when it comes to Spousal Benefits? Here’s a pair of example couples to illustrate the inequity: The first couple: Jane has worked her entire life and has earned a Social Security benefit of $2,600 per month when she retires.  Her husband Sam has been a struggling artist his whole life, as well as a stay-at-home Dad to their three kids when they were young.  As a result, Sam has never generated enough income on his own to receive the requisite 40 quarter-credits to have a Social Security benefit of his own. The second couple: Sid and Nancy have both worked and had earnings within the Social Security system over their lifetimes.  Sid […]

Social Security Spousal Benefits versus Survivor Benefits

I’ve written a lot about Social Security Spousal Benefits and Survivor Benefits on these pages, but oftentimes there is confusion about how they are applied.  There are things about them that are common, but for the most part there are some real differences that you need to understand as you make decisions about applying for one or the other of these benefits. For one thing – Survivor Benefits and Spousal Benefits are benefits that you may be entitled to that are based on someone else’s record: your spouse (or ex-spouse) to be exact.  No matter what your own Social Security benefit might be, you have access to the Spousal Benefit and Survivor Benefit, if, of course, you have or had a spouse with a Social Security retirement benefit available on his or her record. In addition, it is important to note that Spousal Benefits and Survivor Benefits are mutually exclusive.  […]

Social Security Filing Strategies for Surviving Spouses

There are a couple of strategies for Social Security filing that surviving spouses can use to maximize benefits throughout their lifetimes.  The important factor to keep in mind for the surviving spouse is that filing for Survivor Benefits (based on your late spouse’s record) has no impact on filing for Social Security benefits based on your own record – other than the fact that you cannot file for both benefits at the same time. Coordinating these two benefits (Surviving Spouse benefits and your own benefits) can take a couple of different paths: you could file for the Surviving Spouse benefit first, allowing your own benefit to accrue Delay Credits up to as late as age 70; or you could file for your own benefit first, and then later file for the Surviving Spouse benefit. Sue’s husband Steve passed away when Sue was 61 years of age.  Steve had just turned […]

Can Both Spouses File a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits Only?

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Bill of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. In the wake of my post last week, Can Both Spouses File and Suspend?, I received multiple iterations of the same question, which is the topic of today’s post: Can Both Spouses File a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits Only? Unlike the original situation where technically it is possible to undertake but the results would not be optimal, in this situation it’s not technically possible. (The one exception is in the case of a divorced couple. For the details on how it works for divorcees, see this article: […]

Can Both Spouses File and Suspend?

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. This question continues to come up in my interactions with readers, so I thought I’d run through some more examples to illustrate the options and issues.  The question is: Can both spouses file and suspend upon reaching Full Retirement Age, and collect the Spousal Benefit on the other spouse’s record, allowing our own benefit(s) to increase to age 70? Regarding file & suspend and taking spousal benefits, although technically both of you could file and suspend at the same time, only one of you *might* receive spousal benefits […]

Social Security Spousal Benefit at or After FRA

Some time ago I wrote an article on the Social Security Spousal Benefit Before FRA, and an astute reader (thanks, SD!) pointed out the obvious to me: I hadn’t written the complementary piece on calculating the spousal benefit at or after FRA.  So let’s get right to it! When you wait until Full Retirement Age to file for spousal benefits, there is no reduction of that portion of your benefits.  In other words, the spousal benefit will be based on 50% of your spouse’s PIA minus your own PIA, and then this amount will be added to whatever retirement benefit that you’re receiving on your own record.  This additional benefit can’t increase your total benefit to a point greater than 50% of your spouse’s PIA. Here are some examples: Started own benefits early Alice and Terry are both age 66.  Alice started her own benefit early, at age 62.  Her […]

Important Ages for Social Security

There are many specific important ages to know as you’re planning your Social Security filing strategy. The ages can become quite confusing and jumbled together as you plan.  It’s important to know at what age you can take specific actions, as well as what the consequences can be if you take a particular action earlier than it is appropriate. These ages are pervasive throughout this blog and my book, but I hadn’t compiled all of the important ages into a single place, so listed below are what I have determined to be the most important ages with regard to Social Security, as well as what is important about that age.  Enjoy! Age Description 22-62 This is the forty years during which your monthly earnings are compiled to develop your initial Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME).  This figure is then used to determine your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) which is used […]

The Real Breakeven Point for Delaying Your Own Social Security Benefit and Taking the Spousal Benefit

Recently there was an article that I was involved with where we were reviewing the strategies of taking a restricted spousal benefit and therefore delaying your own benefit versus taking your own benefit.  An astute reader (Thanks BL!) pointed out that there was a bit of a flaw in the logic on the costs of delaying, and therefore a significant difference in the breakeven period. Briefly, the example went as follows: Say the wife, Michelle, has a PIA of $1,300 and Mike has a PIA of $2,500.  They’re both age 66, and Michelle files the restricted app and is eligible to receive $1,250 (half of Mike’s), which is only $50 less than she would receive if she filed for her own benefit. After four years of delay, she has given up $2,400 ($50 times 48 months) but now her benefit is $1,716 – $416 more than she would have received […]

Restricted Application is Available via the Online Application

I learn something new almost every day. Today (well, not today but recently), I learned something about the online application for Social Security that I didn’t know: the restricted application for Spousal Benefits is available as a choice when you apply using the online application system! (If you want more information on why a restricted application is important, see this article about Leaving Money on the Table.) For quite a while now I’ve been telling folks that the best way to apply for the restricted application is to go to your local office.  When you get there and explain that you want to submit a restricted application for Spousal Benefits only, the first person that you talk to will likely tell you that you can’t do this, because your own retirement benefit is greater than half of your spouse’s PIA, or something like that.  Then my advice has been to […]

Earnings Tests Apply to Spousal and Survivor Social Security Benefits As Well

If you’re receiving Spousal or Survivor Social Security benefits and you’re under Full Retirement Age, you need to know that any earnings that you have can have an impact on the benefits that you’re receiving.  These are the same limits that apply to regular retirement Social Security benefits, and they apply in the same manner. For 2013, if you will not reach Full Retirement Age during this calendar year, the earnings limit is $15,120, or $1,260 per month.  For every $2 over that limit that you earn for the year, your Social Security benefit will be reduced by $1.  For example, if you earned $20,000 for the year, you are over the limit by $4,880, and you’ll lose $2,440 of your benefit. If you will reach Full Retirement Age in 2013, the earnings limit is $40,080, or $3,340 per month – and the treatment is different.  In this case, for […]

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